Increase Your Love for Other People

Lately, I have been thinking about the presence of God and His love. When I set aside time alone with God and start praying, I almost always feel peace and a feeling of being at rest. The longer I pray, the greater the feelings get. After an hour or so, I start to feel peace and contentment so strongly that I usually can’t hold back tears. I am not one to cry, but I often do when I pray. I believe that prayer brings me closer to God. The closer I am to God, the more love I have for other people.

I have often heard it said that ‘To love others, you need to learn to love yourself first!’ This statement sounds right, but in my experience, it does the exact opposite. The more I think about myself, the more I feel insecure, afraid and impatient with other people. I believe that God teaches a way of life that goes against the culture you and I live in today. I strongly believe that to love others, you must love God first. How do you love God? Submit to Him in prayer, and He will give you so much love for others that you CANNOT HELP but share it!

Matthew 22:34-40 says ‘But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

So, based on this verse, by loving God first and loving your neighbour second, you should love yourself… last? I believe so. Okay, then where did this idea of self-love come from? I believe it comes from selfishness, not God.

God showed us how to love. Jesus stripped Himself of all power to come to earth in the form of a man, then proceeded to serve others for the duration of His time on earth. In his early Thirties, He died on a cross for sins He did not commit. Are you keen on being sentenced to death for a crime you did not commit… at the age of 32?! I know I’m not. At no point did Jesus teach His disciples to ‘love themselves so they could love others’. He taught them to pray. He even gave them a whole prayer to pray, word for word.

If you want to love others the way Jesus taught, learn to pray. If you already pray, add some more time to your praying each day. God LOVES to hear you and me pray and will come closer to us to listen. I love that about Him.

Have you experienced powerful prayer? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear your story! 🙂

Generosity: Sacrificial Giving

I previously mentioned the story of me as a twelve-year-old boy dreaming about all the things I could buy with one million dollars. The exercise got me thinking of all the different stuff I could buy and all the holidays I could experience if I wanted to. However, after thinking about myself for some time, I decided to think about ways I could spend the money to help others. I considered giving half of it away, but I had second thoughts. Giving half of a million dollars seemed to be such a waste! What if I only gave 10%? What if I gave $100,000 and kept the rest for spending as I saw fit? Surely that was generous enough!

There is nothing wrong with giving 10%, but there is something special about giving more than a sensible amount. Luke 21:1-4 says ‘Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Jesus saw through the dollar amounts straight to the heart of each person. The widow chose not to eat because of her love for God. The wealthy people of that time were indeed generous, but their level of giving did not require much sacrifice.

God does not require sacrifice, as Hosea says at 6:6 ’For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.’ However, when you choose to go beyond God’s expectations and requirements because you love Him that much, He will respond and repay! Matthew 6:19-22 says ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

God is after your heart. If you give Him everything you have, especially to the point where it hurts, He notices! Every gift given need not be sacrificial, but a healthy, generous life will include the occasional sacrificial offering which shows the heart of the giver.

Finding Peace In Every Moment

I find myself living in a broken and hurting world. I often see people in bad situations who, by making many small choices, found themselves there. However, I cannot be discouraged for long. I believe in a God who is able and willing to help every person who reaches out to Him. I understand this from my own experience at the age of sixteen. When I prayed to Him, He responded. Now a Christian, bad things still happen to me the same way, yet they appear less significant. At times I have found myself laughing at situations that would have intimidated me before meeting God.

Matthew 24:4-8 says ‘Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

This scripture talks about some of the negative things that will happen. However, the hope of God and His salvation brings peace that cannot be understood by anyone who has not experienced it first-hand.

John 16:33 says ‘I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Do you experience peace that allows you to laugh in times of distress? God wants you to live in this kind of harmony. If you do not experience this, ask God to give it to you.

Passion For God

Acts 21:1-4, 7-8 tells the story of Paul travelling through various places and encouraging Christians as he went. Just focusing on the travel, it says ‘After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, we sailed straight to the island of Cos. The next day we reached Rhodes and then went to Patara. There we boarded a ship sailing for Phoenicia. We …landed at the harbour of Tyre, in Syria, where the ship was to unload its cargo. We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week…‘ (Skip verses 5 and 6) ‘The next stop after leaving Tyre was Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed for one day. The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food.

This story illustrates the passion Paul had for God and the Church. He travelled the world teaching and encouraging believers wherever he went.

The passion Paul had for God and the Church inspires me. However, when it comes to my life, I can so effortlessly get busy with unimportant tasks. I never intend to put God below other things, but it is so easy to find fun and exciting things to fill my day.

Does your life reflect the passion Paul had? Travelling the world is obviously not required to pursue God passionately. Loving God looks different for everyone, but is there an opportunity to bring your passion to a higher level? Do you find yourself ‘too busy’ to spend a meaningful time alone with God each day?

Family

This week God has been talking to me about family. It started when I was talking with a friend about her family. Her family experienced some hardship but didn’t handle it well. As a result, some relationships suffered and today still need attention.

The conversation I had with my friend reminded me of my family. Last year I moved away from family but didn’t make an effort to stay in contact. I wanted to leave them behind as much as possible because of my past (terrible) experiences. However, after some thinking and praying, I believe God wants me to connect with them again.

Have you struggled with your family in the past? Are there relationships you can help mend?

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says ‘If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

God wants every one of us to love each other the way He loves. This includes family.

Take Control of Your Emotions

I was alone in my bedroom when I finally couldn’t hold it in any longer. My shoulders started to shake, and I began to cry. I was upset because I was following my emotions, and they were dictating my mood. I had a decision to make; I could continue to allow my feelings to control me, or I could take control of myself and go to God.

When I look at my life, I want to see a man of God who is firm and secure. I want to see courage, faith and fearlessness.

What do you want to see in your life? Perhaps you also want to be secure, firmly planted on the rock that is Christ. Maybe you want to have more control over your impulses and desires.

I have good news! Every impulsive desire, failure or fear can be overcome by renewing your mind.

When I was alone in my bedroom, I chose to pray. After praying a little while, I started playing worship music and singing. After only a few minutes, my emotions turned from sadness to contentment. I knew deep down how much God loves me.

If you want to take control of your emotions, actions and ultimately, your life, get alone with God and refresh yourself. Don’t just leave God in the part of your day where you do your devotion, but instead live with Him. If you see a need for more strength, don’t hesitate to ask Him.

Romans 12:2 says ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Ask For Directions

From a young age, I have been competitive. I always do my best to win at everything – from games at a friend’s house, to working on a project for my job; I do everything I can to be the best. This competitiveness drove me to listen to a lot of audiobooks. The purpose was to learn everything I could about my job, the world, and business in general. The problem is that a lot of successful people chase after money. They aren’t Christian, and their values started to rub off on me as I listened.

Can you relate to this? Do you find yourself following other values rather than God’s?

This morning I prayed that God would realign my heart and my desires. I want to follow Him and His direction for my life rather than creating my plan. I know God is looking out for me now. I have surrendered to Him so that He will lead me.

Each day is a day to surrender. To follow God requires each step (each day) to be used for good. Each day is an opportunity to draw closer to God and the destiny He has for you!

Proverbs 3:5-6 says ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.‘ God will lead when we are willing to follow.

Does This Verse Change Generosity?!

I was reading the bible in Proverbs when I came across an unusual verse. The verse made me rethink how I view giving and generosity. I was convicted and challenged when I understood another aspect of how giving works. The Bible text said (Proverbs 19:17) ‘Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.‘ Wow! I didn’t know God took generosity so seriously! The fact that he takes personal ownership of our kindness to the poor, turning it into a loan He will repay shows His heart for the poor.

What makes this verse even more interesting is how He chooses to be in our debt. As far as I am aware, this is the only time God is in our debt! God is very generous to us already, extending His grace every day. We are almost always on the receiving end when it comes to our relationship. After all, He is the one who saved us, and He is the one who gave His love without expectation of return. However, here He is giving us the opportunity to give back beyond His expectations. The act of giving to the poor reverses the roles of giving and receiving. God becomes the receiver, but true to His generous character, he will not accept the gift without promising another gift in return!

Worship

Worshipping God is powerful. When I open my heart and worship, every little thing fades into nothing. My perspective changes as I focus all my attention and energy. I can feel every part of me worshipping. As I sing, my words become a prayer. I experience a powerful sensation shoot through my body, often leading to tears falling down my face. This real and raw submission to God gives me more peace than I can describe, more love than I can understand, and the strength to face any situation.

I love worshipping! I have to set a timer on my phone or risk spending hours alone, inevitably making me late for something. The act of worship puts me into a timeless state. I lose all other senses.

John 4:23-24 says ‘But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

As this verse shows, when we worship, we are connecting directly to God. God is seeking worshippers, but unfortunately, in this age, there are so many distractions that take our attention; Worshipping God changes that attention to God and aligns us with Him. If you aren’t feeling connected with God or haven’t experienced this, set aside 2 hours with no distractions, play worship music and listen to the words, making them your prayer. You will not feel the same after! (Ideally, 20+ minutes of daily worship will become a part of every morning.)

God Does it Better

The past few days I have been pushed to my limit. Waking up each morning to a work emergency that required my immediate attention is not what I would consider a good start to my day. These days didn’t allow me to spend the usual time alone with God each morning. This lack of connection has affected me. I have been leaning on my strength, and unlike earlier, the stress of living without God has built up.

Today I read from Job 40. The whole chapter God speaks to Job and his friends, reminding them of their power compared to His. These verses convicted me because I have been leaning on my strength rather than His.

If you were to look at yourself, do you find stress, worry or anxiety? Set aside an hour to reconnect with God. It will reset your heart and mind, removing those stresses and replacing them with love, joy and peace.

Isaiah 40:28 says ‘Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.‘ It is no wonder life is so much easier when I trust in Him! I want God to lead me and guide me!